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Out in my day to day life, I get asked about audiobooks more than just about anything else. As their popularity has skyrocketed in the last decade, more and more people are interested in jumping on board, but I’ve also found that people have questions and concerns about audiobooks. I’m definitely not some sort of trained expert in audiobooks, but I do listen to a lot (about 30% of my reading), and I think I’ve developed some expertise that I want to pass along to others. So, this is the first in a two part series all about audiobooks!
Today I’ll tackle three audiobook topics, and will do the same again next Tuesday in A Primer for Audiobook Enjoyment (Part 2). Let’s go!
Topic 1: It’s NOT Cheating!
I can’t tell you how many people have told me they’re reluctant to listen to an audiobook because it feels like cheating. I sometimes have to work very hard to convince a friend or colleague that listening to a great story involves nothing inherently wrong. A few of my arguments include:
- We’re not in school reading a book for an assignment. We don’t need to highlight passages for future reference. We’re not “getting away” with something by listening to the words rather than reading the words.
- We are adults and when we read in our free time it’s for pleasure, no matter the form.
- Listening is not the easy way out. In fact, listening to a book on audio actually takes most people longer than it would to read the book in print. For me it takes about 30-40% longer. So, it can be argued that audiobooks are more of a commitment. (But don’t let that scare you off. We’ll get to that next week.)
- As an adult reading means connecting with an author and the words she or he put down on paper. They enter our brain, no matter the delivery form. I count audiobooks as books read. I include them in my Goodreads goal every year and you should too!
- Studies say there is virtually no difference in reading comprehension for adults in print vs. audio when the reading is done for pleasure.
- Bottom line? Listening and reading accomplish the same thing!
Topic 2: Why Go With Audiobooks?
I was talking about doing this post with one of the teachers I work with who also happens to be a good friend and a big audiobook listener. I asked her why, and I love what Allison said, “Audiobooks gave me back reading.” That is a big statement. She went on to explain that with working full time and having four kids of her own, she’d lost touch with books simply through lack of time. When she discovered audiobooks, her 40 minutes a day alone in the car allowed her to start connecting with books again. That’s the best possible reason, but I have a few more:
- Commuting. It’s a drag. Podcasts and music help, but sometimes those get old, too. A great audiobook will make you eager to get in the car and drive! My son, Matt, was frustrated he never had time to read. Once I finally convinced him to try audiobooks, he was hooked and now regularly listens in the car.
- Exercise. It’s difficult to read a book while running, walking, riding a bike, etc. It’s easy to listen to a book while doing any of those activities. In fact, I find myself wanting to get in extra exercise time when I have a really great audiobook going.
- The daily grind. It’s also easy to listen to an audiobook while doing mundane things like folding laundry, putting away groceries, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, pulling weeds, etc. When you’re ignited by a wonderful story, you’ll be looking for times to listen.
- Listening to a book is a completely different experience than reading one. I loved being told stories as a kid and my mom was terrific at making them up on the fly. Listening to a great story on audio brings back a little of that magic from childhood.
- Bottom line? Don’t we all want someone to tell us a story?
Topic 3: Finding Audiobook Genres That Work For You
Finding the genres that work for you is key to audiobook enjoyment. Listeners all have different takes on what works for them. It definitely involves a bit of trial and error, so you’ll need to be patient with that. I can only share my own journey and hope it gives you a few ideas.
- Nonfiction: When I first got serious about making audiobooks a part of my life, I was also struggling to read more nonfiction, so initially combined those two goals. I was smart about my early choices, picking nonfiction that read almost like fiction and that worked very well for me. A few of my early nonfiction selections included:
- The Stranger in the Woods by Mark Bramhall (my review)
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (my review)
- Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif (my review)
- Mystery/Thrillers: This genre isn’t always one of my favorites, but the great thing about audiobooks is sometimes stories you wouldn’t like in print, you will like in audio. So, I decided to see how this genre of audiobooks might work for me.
- The first one I tried was Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane (my review). I loved this book on audio, but know if I’d read it, I’d have felt parts were ridiculous and over the top.
- An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (my review)
- A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson (my review)
- Fiction on the Lighter Side: I soon found I really, really enjoyed fiction books that were more contemporary stories, a little on the lighter side. Some early favorites I’d still recommend to new listeners:
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (my review)
- According to a Source by Abby Stern (my review)
- Fitness Junkie by Lucky Sykes & Jo Piazza (my review)
- More: As audiobooks have become a bigger and bigger part of my reading world, I’ve expanded what I’ll listen to. Now almost every genre can work for me. Some of my favorites have been:
- The Power by Naomi Alderman (my review)
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review)
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (my review)
- Bottom line? You need to discover what works for you and that’s a process that might take time and effort.
That’s it for Part 1 of A Primer for Audiobook Enjoyment, but please come back next Tuesday when I’ll cover Topics 4-6 (Training Your Brain to Listen, Tips for Acquiring Audiobooks, and The Importance of Great Narrators).
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Kelly Henderson says
I completely agree. I have difficulty sitting still. There is always something that needs to be done! With audio books vacuuming, painting, cleaning all are more enjoyable.
I wish I discovered them years ago!
I just finished my 9th audio book of the year, about 6% of my total. I’ve found memoirs work for me on audio while it’s not my favorite genre in print. But the narrator is critical and I always listen to a sample before committing. While I especially enjoy it when the author reads their own book, there are times when they shouldn’t. I couldn’t do “Daring to Drive” — I found her voice too unpleasant.
Evvie Drake is next up. Will be just my second fiction on audio.
I really liked Evvie Drake on audio because it was read by Julia Whelan, one of my favorite narrators. I also enjoyed Daring to Drive on audio. I actually liked Lameece Issaq’s narration a lot, but we’re all different!
Jade @ Reading with Jade says
‘Listening to a book is a completely different experience than reading one.’ – yes, totally agree.
For me, I’ve largely reread books via audio format as I often struggle with fully taking on board the words being read. This year I’ve tried to branch out with audiobooks – I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo via audio – but definitely think I may pick up a tip or two in part 2 of this series.
Thanks for sharing!
I loved Evelyn Hugo on audio and I recently listened to Daisy Jones & The Six and loved that, too. I’d read it earlier in the year, so it was a sort of “reread” for me. The cast was fantastic.
Allison | Mind Joggle says
Great post, Susie! I had a hard time getting into audiobooks, but I found my sweet spot with “smart but light” fiction and memoir. Now that I’ve been listening more, it’s easier to get into heavier books as well–it almost took practice to pay attention while doing other things. I do DNF a lot of audiobooks, though, if the narrator or story seem like they aren’t going to work–many more than I do with print books.
Your journey with audiobooks sounds exactly like mine. I also DNF quite a few and will be talking more about that in the next post.
What an awesome post, Susie! It took me a little bit to find my groove with audiobooks. I started with rereads and then moved onto nonfiction. Now I can listen to almost anything, as long as the plot isn’t too complicated. I definitely agree that listening to and reading a book can be very different experiences – I think there are some books I might have DNFed if I had been reading in print, but the narration just makes it different.
Your thoughts on audiobooks pretty much mirror mine. I know I’m a lot more patient with audiobooks than I am with print, assuming I like the narrator.
Tanya Patrice says
Audiobooks gave me back reading too. I travel for work – and a 4-5 hour road trip is so much better with an audiobook. So is wait time in an airport and even plane rides (noise canceling headphones are a must – so why not listen to an audiobook)! I love audiobooks for translated literature, or books from countries where I’m not familiar with the pronounciations of the names of places – it makes me feel so much more connected to a book to hear the proper pronounciations. Bonus – I feel a hell of a lot smarter if / when real people start talking about those places and I recognize them! (thanks Harry Hole series).
I hav en’t aver tried a book in translation and do sometimes struggle with the pronunciations, so I love your tip. I’m going to look for a good translated book to try. Do you have any suggestions?
I agree and have liked audiobooks more & more as time has gone on. I especially like listening when raking leaves, gardening, doing laundry and while dog walking. Some of the readers are so good and truly become their parts. The Power by Alderman was indeed terrific on audio as was Daisy Jones. Audiobooks seem to help me get thru reading slumps and especially now after a minor eye surgery.
It’s funny. I think The Power and Daisy Jones are my top 2 audiobooks of all time, and those are the two you mentioned! Listening to The Power was almost like being at a movie. Truly amazing!
Amy @ Read a Latte says
This is such a great guide! I’ve only just started getting more into audiobooks, and it is so great to have one going and go for a really long walk, it’s so relaxing! I’m excited to see the narrator section of part two! I only have one favorite: Julia Whelan, but I hope so find more go-tos.
Julia Whelan is at the top of my list, too, but I do have others. I’m glad the primer is of use and that you’re enjoying audiobooks. They’ve really changed my reading life.